Whooper swans start migrating from the cold Russian north-lands around the Autumn period and these "angels of winter" find their way to the warm hot springs around the Lake Kussharo area. The lake is the largest caldera lake in Japan, and is only second in the world next to Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia in terms of its sheer size. So the best times to view these beautiful birds are around the winter time. As the first blooms of spring begin to sprout, they will make their way back north.
These swans look elegant and graceful as they glide along the water’s edge. Occasionally they will flap their wings to flip away the droplets of water on their feathers. Then at a moment’s notice they will burst out in a loud cacophony of jousting and stretching of their long slender necks to ward away their rivals. Then in a loving embrace, the male and female will come together and swim away in unison.
Places you can go to have a view of these magnificent creatures in winter include the Kotan Onsen along the shores of Lake Kussharo. Kotan means village in the local Ainu language spoken in this region. Here you can see flocks of Whooper swans lazing around in the pools of hot springs doting the area.
Together with the swans, you can also find male and female mallard ducks grazing peacefully together.
We also paid a visit to the Ike-no Yu Onsen, but alas there were not swans there and we ended up admiring and taking photos of this beautiful landscape and scenery.
Another spot for viewing the Whopper swans is the more commercialised Sunayu Onsen on the eastern banks of Lake Kussharo. Meaning “a place where sand gushes out” in the local Aino language, Sunayu is home to many swans and you can buy food from the local convenience stores to feed the swans and have your Instagram moment there. There is also a rest stop, a restaurant and a souvenir store there. Parking there is also free.
It is M.K. Wong's dream to visit at least 50 countries before his feet can carry him no more. With over 35 countries under his belt, M.K. is planning for his next escapade.